Tag Archives: DIY

Terrarium Inspiration

4 Nov

Yesterday I posted a tutorial on how to create terrariums, but something weird happened and it posted in the past. By the time I noticed and fixed the back-dating issue it was nearly today. I know that sentence barely makes any sense, but that’s what I get for fucking with the space-time continuum. If you haven’t read the tutorial, it’s very very easy. If you have read it and can’t wait to get started, here’s some container, plant, and figurine inspiration. If you found my blog by searching for “how to build wet terrariums”, seek help immediately. Possibly in the form of a dictionary.

If you’re lucky enough to find a vintage terrarium container while thrifting, scoop it up and never look back. They aren’t that easy to find. I’ve been lucky enough to find three: an acrylic egg-shaped one, a glass mushroom, and a glass apple. I’m keeping my eye out for more and you can bet that if I find one it’s going up immediately in my store.

Before I ever found those, however, I made countless terrariums out of inexpensive thrifted glass containers. That’s the beauty of terrariums—they are adaptable and can be made from all sorts of things.

My first terrariums were created in thrifted fish bowls and storage jars from Ikea. The more I kept my eye out for interesting jars and things while thrifting the more I became inspired. I found all sorts of lovely glass bowls. I especially loved making them in tiny containers. Especially if they said something weird like, “Bishop’s Awards Dinner.”

I once bought a glass jar from either Crate and Barrel or CB2. I may have registered for it, actually. I don’t remember but I’ve had it for awhile. It was just sitting somewhere taking up space when I thought I know! I’ll make it into a terrarium! I get the most compliments from this terrarium.

One of my favorite terrarium bowls was a vintage thrifted find that was hand-blown with little bubbles embedded in the glass. Gorgeous.

I like to liven up the simpler terrariums by adding extras: toys. Historically some terrariums featured little figurines, especially mushrooms, as a decorative touch. The egg terrarium I bought came with a vintage mushroom and swan. I’ve seen some terrariums add dinosaurs for a whimsical prehistoric touch and it made me want to add more toys to mine.

Anthony and I collected the totally strange and inexplicably rave-themed Buddha Buddies from a vending machine in an old grocery store. Why they were ever created is a mystery but I love adding them to my terrariums. I purchased plastic sea creatures from the craft store and made one that resembled octopus in a bed of kelp. The terrarium I keep at work has a roaring hippo.

My sister bought me this good-luck cat and it was very happy in the terrarium I kept by the sink.

I used to keep all my terrariums on the counter near the fruits and vegetables. They looked really lovely and unfortunately I never took any pictures of them, so enjoy my cat amongst produce and a dismembered pomegranate along with your terrariums.

When I want to create a new terrarium I troll the Terrarium group that I moderate on Flickr for inspiration and it never lets me down. Really, any glass container has terrarium potential.

How to Create a Terrarium

3 Nov

Creating a terrarium is incredibly easy.  If you’ve wanted to make one but have been too nervous to get started, I hope that by the end of  this post you are going to wonder what all the fuss was about. Anyone can make one, and this is the perfect activity to do with school-aged children—it’d start some neat conversations about biospheres and the processes of life.

First thing to note is that I am calling all of these creations “terrariums” even though in the strict sense of the word they are not: most of mine are uncovered environments, meaning they don’t develop their own little enclosed ecosystem. I call them terrariums to convey the sense that they are contained within glass. Enclosed terrariums are a lot trickier to establish than open ones but are still simple to put together.

Along with terrariums you may have also heard of vivariums. They are terrariums that function as a living environment for captive insects, reptiles, or amphibians. You have the challenge of creating an ecosystem not just for the plants involved but also for other creatures. Those are much more complicated and time consuming. For now, let’s just stick with plants, shall we?

Choose Your Container

The kind of terrarium you create will depend on the type of container you have on hand and the type of plants you are going to use. You’re going to want to match the plant to the container, or vice versa.

STEP 1: Choose a glass or clear plastic container. Either wipe out the inside with a rag or swish some water around in it if it’s used.

Pick Your Plants

My favorite type of plant is the succulent, but you absolutely don’t want a humid, enclosed terrarium for them. They like dry conditions and well-drained soil or else they rot. If you have your heart set on an enclosed terrarium, use moss, ferns, or my favorite, spider plants. Spider plants are always having little spider plant babies and in my experience aren’t deterred by an enclosed terrarium. Moss and ferns love a humid environment. I’ve never grown moss (it’s not wet enough around here to occur naturally) but I’ve had no trouble establishing ferns in enclosed terrariums.

STEP 2: Have your plant ready. Choose one that’s on the small side.

Lay The Foundation

Terrariums need some sort of rocky base for the excess water to drain into. Horticultural charcoal is really nice if you have it. It helps absorb excess moisture that could lead to fungus growth and rot. I’ve used it with good results, but then I ran out and just proceeded on with rocks and soil and it turned out fine. I’ve used decorative gravel from a big box craft store, treated aquarium gravel from the pet store, and actual gravel we just happened to have in the backyard. At first I was a little worried that the treated gravel would have wacky, unintended results in my terrariums, but I haven’t noticed anything strange because of it. The gravel from my yard worked just as well as the gravel from the craft store, but it wasn’t as good-looking, to be honest.

STEP 3: Fill your empty container with about an inch or so of pebbles. This depends on the size of your container, but an inch or two should be fine. If you are using horticultural charcoal, add it in a thin layer on top of the pebbles.

Add Your Soil

I usually use a sterile potting mix. If you get peat or some perlite mixed in that can help with drainage. I’ve also added in soil from my backyard, too when I was running low on potting mix. One time I created an enclosed terrarium but did not use sterile potting mix. A gnat of some sort laid eggs in the soil and within two days my lovely enclosed terrarium was swarming with tiny flies. It was nauseating.

STEP 4: Add your soil. Make sure it is very moist. It shouldn’t be dripping, soggy-wet, but it should be moist. I like to add about two or three times as much soil as pebbles, but this depends on your container. How much soil you need depends on the plants you choose and how deep their root systems go. Three or four inches of soil, or even more, has worked for me.

Add Your Plants

Moisten the soil and add your plants. The trick is to add very small plants. You don’t want to add a plant that looks like it would fit—you want to go much smaller. If you add a plant that fills out the terrarium already you are going to have to repot the sucker immediately or it will outgrow your container. Start with miniature-sized versions and expect them to grow.

STEP 5: Transfer your plants like you normally would when repotting. Gently pull it out of the pot, loosen the root ball, and set it in a hole you dug inside the terrarium. Cover gently with soil.

Add Aesthetic Touches

It’s traditional to add a little figure or statue to your terrarium. It’s definitely not necessary and I don’t always add them, but small toys can be an extra fun step in creating terrariums. When I bought my egg-shaped terrarium it came with two vintage, hand-painted figures: one a tiny mushroom and the other a miniature swan. Personally I like to add toys to the mix: a dinosaur, or a gnome, or tiny plastic ninja. It’s fun and cute but certainly not necessary nor needed.

Some people get very creative with their terrariums and they landscape the soil as they put it down to give their terrariums hills and valleys. Or they sprinkle the surface of the soil with gravel or sphagnum moss. Terrariums look lovely on their own but think of it as gilding the lily.

STEP 6: Add gravel, rocks, figures, or other decorative touches. Completely optional.

Growing Tips

The frequency and amount of water will very per plant and container. If the terrarium is enclosed and the soil is moist enough, you won’t need to do more than an infrequent misting with a spray bottle. Sometimes a trickle of water from the watering can once a week is all that’s needed. Succulents like their roots to dry out in between watering but ferns like to stay moist. If you can get a good condensation going on the glass of your enclosed terrarium, then you needn’t interfere.

Terrariums do best in indirect sunlight. Never place them in direct sunlight because the temperature inside will rise and kill your plants. Too little water is better than too much water. Overwatering promotes the growth of bacteria and fungus.


Reassure yourself with the knowledge that some terrariums are not going to last forever. Sure, there’s the trial and error of establishing a plant, but even when things go well your terrarium might only last a season. Some plants do so well in terrariums I’ve had to repot them after a few months because they’ve outgrown their container. Some plants I’ve been able to keep going for six months to a year before they ran out of space, but some plants more and some plants less. This isn’t a failure—it’s a success.

External Links

My awesome friend Kate (whose home is so gorgeous her kitchen was featured in Better Homes and Garden) started this terrarium group on flickr. It is by far the coolest group and has tons of amazing terrariums for inspiration. Kate made me a moderator of the group and I invite people to participate whenever I can. If you create a terrarium please add it to the group! We’d love to have you.

I am not an expert on terrariums. I’m just someone who loves them and who has made a few and wanted to share what works for me. You can find more information about terrariums here:

Here’s a teaching activity about creating an environment in a soda bottle.

This guy’s all about terrariums.

I really like this site.

If you use this tutorial to create a terrarium, please share it! If you post yours on flickr please add it to the terrarium group and add a link in the comments here so we can see your work. If you have any questions let me know and I’ll answer them as best I can.

6 DIY Costumes: Halloween Roundup

1 Nov


Here’s a recap of this year’s costumes! Most of these photos were taken at my friend Zack’s birthday party. We celebrated his continual survival by dressing up in Halloween costumes and meeting at a Bay Area go cart race track. Which is a whole post in itself really and was a blast.

This year Laurel was a zombie jogger. If you notice she was bit on the ankle. My theory is that she was bit by a zombie dog who was following her on her run. Her husband John had a joke about why she was caught and it involved her saying, “traaaaaaaaaaaaiiiiiiiiiins” but I don’t remember it now.

Laurel went to great lengths (specifically, Walmart) to purchase that fanny pack. She was pretty disappointed they didn’t have any day-glow options. I told her because day-glow fanny packs are now vintage, which is awesome, which defeats the purpose of a fanny pack. So they don’t exist any more. QED.

Isobel was terrified of Laurel with the green make up on. At one point Isobel looked from Laurel to me and then said, “Help!” After Laurel removed the make up, however, they were BFF once again.


Some of our friends decided to dress up as super heroes. Anthony suggested I join in the theme since what I originally wanted to be didn’t work out. After going through a list of super hero ladies he suggested I be Rogue. I had a brown leather jacket like her anyway, so it could be done cheaply. Perfect!

Every year at Halloween, I learn something new about myself. Two years ago I learned that I can’t abide the taste of fang adhesive. Last year I learned that I wanted nothing to do with Anthony when he was covered in zombie make up. This year I learned that spray-dye for your hair smells like ass and I’m probably never going to use it again.

I do best with costumes that just involve clothes, really. For the photos I show off Rogue’s signature gloves and bitchy look.


K is totally photo-bombing this shot. I love it.

My husband was Nightwing for Halloween. He found a (fake) leather jacket while thrifting and after considering several options for adding a blue stripe we realized that the simplest would be the easiest one of all: blue electrical tape. For the most part the tape adhered very well on it’s own, but since he never planned on using the jacket for anything else we glued the tape down in the areas where the adhesive needed help.

He reused his leather pants and the boots are actually galoshes that he found at the Army surplus store. Black gloves and a mask complete the look.


This is Laurel’s husband John. He is posing in character here and you probably have no idea who he’s supposed to be. That’s because he’s a private joke. People of Voltaire, I present to you everyone’s favorite dog groomer, Mike. S. Yes, the legendary Mike S.

I’d say he nailed it.


Jake dressed as that guy from The Notebook a private detective. It’s a very good look for him, I think. Here’s what he’d look like if this photo was taken in the 1930s:

Very dapper, Jake.


Our friends Justin and Melynda were out of town and so we didn’t get to see them on the big night but their costumes were adorable: they dressed in black and added handmade masks and went as two crows. Melynda purchased her mask on etsy while they made Justin’s themselves. Very creative, very cute. Also I’d recommend you spend the whole night talking about things that are shiny.

Busy Little Bee

31 Oct

Happy Halloween from our little bee! I asked her to say hi to everybody, and to my amazement, she complied:

My goal with her costume this year was to 1. dress her as something cute 2. dress her as something she wouldn’t hate. This last one was tricky. While I wouldn’t say she loves her costume, I can say that she doesn’t notice her costume, which I consider a WIN. Basically I knew anything that had a hat, a hood, gloves, mask, headband, or anything otherwise distracting would be absolutely loathed by Isobel. It would upset her dignity as a toddler. She has a lot of dignity and she treasures it.

Once I finally decided that she would be a bee I set to work gathering the components. She already had the black pants, mary jane shoes, and white socks. After coming up empty-handed in my search for a second-hand vintage dress, I decided to go with the next best thing: a handmade dress. I searched etsy for a yellow dress and found this one by etsy seller faithworks4u. She set to work immediately making this dress to Isobel’s measurements and within a few short days I had it in my possession. I can’t recommend her enough, and hopefully soon you will see Isobel in some other cute dresses from her shop. I have a couple that I have my eye on. (It should be noted that I found Faith’s shop on my own. I bought the dress, paid for with my own hard-earned money, and after she sent it and I examined the quality I contacted her and let her know I’d be featuring it here. She’s super nice.)

I added some extra bumble-bee stripes to the dress with black electrical tape. After the holiday is over, I have myself a cute toddler dress as the electrical tape comes off easily. Perfect.

The wings I found while thrifting. They were cannibalized from a commercial bee costume that wouldn’t have fit Isobel. I pinned them on using safety pins. I didn’t want to do any damage to the dress since she’d be wearing it after Halloween, and it is a lot easier to dress her with the wings only partially on than if they were permanent.

Since I knew she wouldn’t tolerate a headband with antenna I pulled her hair into an antenna hairstyle.

I’m a big fan of Baby Legs so I ordered these bee-inspired black and yellow leggings online. I wish their color was a little more golden to match the dress better, but overall I think they are cute.

The finishing touch to the outfit is the bouquet of flowers which I found while thrifting. She loves flowers, real or otherwise, and was excited to carry them around.

This whole outfit could have been put together very inexpensively had I looked for the dress while thrifting. As it was the dress was not too expensive and she’s going to be wearing it again and again.

Go bees!


Halloween Transformation, Phase I

30 Oct

It began with this dress, purchased from etsy seller faithworks4u. Faith is extremely talented,  sweet, and accommodating to boot.

I can say it’s a Handmade Halloween even if I didn’t make the whole thing myself, can’t I?

More to come.

14 DIY Costume Ideas

26 Oct

Although I start dreaming up Halloween costumes way in advance (I mean months in advance) I sometimes still can’t decide until the last minute. For couple’s costume ideas go here.

If there’s one thing the internet has given me, it’s limitless amounts of inspiration.


I don’t even know this kid, but when I saw him several years ago at a Renaissance Faire I had to take a photo. This was before Anthony and I were even planning to start a family, but the idea of crocheted chain mail was something I wanted to file away for future reference. How perfect is that chain mail? Answer: completely! It looks like chain mail but without the weight. I have no idea how to make this, but it looks pretty simple. I was just going to ask my friend Susie when the time comes. I suggest you do the same. (Or if you don’t know my friend Susie, just Google it.)

Fighter Accessories: crochet chain mail, sword and shield, swash-buckling hat, cuteness of an eight-year-old



I know a lot of people who’ve been Mario for Halloween. It’s a great costume, no doubt about it. But Raccoon Mario takes it to a whole new level of Geek-chic. (It’s an awesome hidden level, BTW.)

Raccoon Mario Accessories: red shirt, overalls, yellow felt button covers, hat, felt M logo, raccoon ears and tail



That’s my handsome husband right there. All kinds of ladies were swarming all over him when he wore this to work at the bookstore. I must have been feeling generous because I let them live. There are some very expensive items in this outfit: custom leather pieces aren’t cheap. That said, there were thrifty elements, too. The gray shirt and leather pants are from a thrift store, and the “boots” are from a cheap pirate Halloween costume: they attach to regular shoes to look all buccaneer-like. The sword was borrowed from David (we accidentally broke that sword later in the night while trying to slice a pumpkin in half—sorry, David!) and the bandolier belts were purchased at a yard sale. Since Anthony has used the leather braces and shoulder guards for many occasions in many different costumes I feel it’s a justified purpose. Many times Anthony will be some sort of fighter for Halloween and the years we can afford it we add another piece to his collection. The same goes with my faerie costume.

Swashbuckling Fighter Accessories: boots, leather pants, altered tunic/shirt, bandoleers, sword, bracers, shoulder armor, leather pouch with gold coins, thrifted belts, the good sense not to try to smash a pumpkin with a sword



As I was mentioning above, the faerie costume is my default costume that I add to every couple of years. It’s worth spending money on it as long as I add pieces slowly. But not all of my costume pieces are expensive. The earrings came from Claire’s (you can see the earrings in this picture), the dress I had in my closet, the belt is actually a ribbon, the fan was a favor from a wedding I attended, and instead of a purse I carried a basket that I got at a thrift store. The headpiece I bought online somewhere and the wings I got at a Ren Faire.
Faerie Accessories: dress, headband, ornate necklace and earrings, fan, basket, dress, wings, aversion to iron



David was an OG sexy vampire in the days before the Twilight phenomenon. He darkened his hair with inexpensive, temporary dye,  put in red contacts, and dressed up in a sexy red shirt and charcoal-gray trousers. David looked so hot. It really made me feel awful for breaking his sword. (Sorry, David!) He also put on vampire “fangs” that you glue on top of your canines.

Vampire Accessories: red contacts, temporary hair dye, fangs, nice outfit, tolerance for flash photography



Melynda channels Audrey Hepburn in this iconic costume. Plus, she just looks hot. I wonder where she got the cigarette holder…
Breakfast at Tiffany’s Accessories: tiara, necklace, glasses, gloves, black dress, cigarette holder, clutch


At Halloween the devil is always in style.

The Devil’s in the Details: sexy red dress, fishnets or tights, black lace gloves, horn hairclips, impish smile



John dressed as Rorschach from The Watchmen before the movie came out. There are probably commercial Rorschach costumes out now, but John’s was excellent and definitely easy to duplicate. I know John borrowed the hat, the trench, and maybe even the scarf from our friend Caleb, but I’ve seen similar items at thrift stores. John decorated an opaque white tight with a sharpie for the mask. He could see and breathe through it.

Rorschach Accessories : trench, scarf, hat, stocking, marker



Did you watch the cartoon Doug growing up? Remember the super hero Quail Man that was Doug’s alter ego? Scott nailed it.

Quail Man Accessories: belts for headband, red towel for cape, underwear worn outside of pants, homemade “Q” sweater vest


My sister is hilarious. Her costume was “going emo” but when people asked her what she was she would make a huge, heaving sigh and say, “I don’t caaaaaaaare.” It was perfect.
Emo Accessories: pale make up, black eye make up, black satin trench coat, black tulle skirt, black tights, endless apathy


Laurel obviously purchased this costume after the movie came out, but how freaking cute is this?
Silk Spectre Accessories: costume, ability to look hot and frolic


Doesn’t he look great? John does a really good Joker laugh. Unfortunately it woke a 6 month old Isobel up from her slumber and she screamed bloody murder. Great job, John! Your costume IS scary. To an infant.

The Joker’s Accessories: Dress clothes, purple shirt, cane, costume make up, hideous laugh



Anthony used to work at a large chain bookstore that dressed up for certain Twilight-related days. His manager, David, volunteered to be Dr. Cullen, the devilishly handsome vampire doctor. David just happened to have a real stethoscope. Handy.

Dr. Cullen Accessories: lab coat, hair dye, fangs, contacts, stethoscope


It helps if you have naturally long blond hair, but if not, you can braid a long, blond wig as well. This is my sister, and she braided her hair before winding it around her head like a Valkyrie’s halo. She’s wearing some thrifted fur. I don’t remember what she has one for pants or a skirt. This was a really long time ago, but I sure do like it, the thrifted fur especially. Very creative.

Barbarian Accessories: thrifted or faux fur, braided blond hair or wig, plastic battle axe, willingness to to ascend to Valhalla


Man, this costume looked really good in person. I should have gotten a close up of the faux fur vest he is wearing. Yes. You heard me. That entire vest is faux fur and was purchased at Macy’s as an honest-to-god serious item of clothing. When Justin recieved it as a birthday present from a well-intentioned family member, he decided to get Cro-Magnon with it for Halloween. Leopard pants were easily constructed out of fleece.

Cave Man Accessories: god-awful fake fir vest, leopard pants, tray of delicious flautas

Eight DIY Couple’s Costume Ideas

24 Oct

Sometimes it’s not enough to have a costume. Sometimes you need a costume that matches another costume. Here are eight suggestions to get you started.


My husband decided to be a vampire hunter for Halloween the year I was pregnant with Isobel. I decided to be a vampire, not because I have a particular interest in vampires, but because I was not going to tolerate my husband hunting anyone but me. My options were still wide open since I was in the middle of my pregnancy still—my only caveat was that I needed a high-wasted, flowing dress. Which is easy enough.

We recycled parts of other costumes to create the Vampire Hunter look. He wore a pair of thrifted black leather pants, thrifted black combat boots, a simple black t-shirt, and some creative accessories. The he made the stakes himself by slicing up a wooden dowel into the right shape and covering the handle with black electrical tape. He borrowed a cross from my parent’s house and bought a plastic gun at the flea market for a dollar. A bandoleer found while yard saling and some garlic finished off the look.

I’m the first to admit my costume isn’t very convincing or inventive. It was actually supposed to be a lot better: I had ordered these lacy black gloves and matching kneesocks on etsy but the seller flaked out. Boo. And I bought some stick-on fangs that David recommended but the adhesive was SO FUCKING NASTY I couldn’t go through with it. I bought some knit black stockings at Target at the last minute and added a sparkly thrifted broach.

Vampire Hunter Accessories: garlic, steaks, gun, cross, bandoleer, combat boots, badassery

Vampire Accessories: cool gloves and tights from etsy, fangs, dress, sparkly thrifted broach, baby bump


Stef rocks the dryad costume with a thrifted green dress and her natural beauty. She added a “crown” made of ivy and berries and made matching wristlet and belt circlets as well. Dave has the beard and physique of a lumberjack, so this costume wasn’t a stretch. Add a piping axe made out of foam, PVC pipe and duct tape, and you’re good to go.

Woodsman Accessories: beard, hat, flannel, jeans, “axe”, stoutheartedness

Dryad Accessories:  ivy crown, belt and wristlets, green dress, natural beauty


Angela was very, very pregnant during Halloween one year, and when you’re 8 months pregnant it’s hard to find more than one pair of pants that fit, let alone a costume. But she and her husband Justin had a great idea: she would be a pregnant prom queen and Justin would be her lecherous high school science teacher/baby daddy. The funniest part about this scandalous couple’s costume is that Justin unzipped his pants and put part of his shirt through the fly.

Pregnant Prom Queen Accessories: giant belly swollen with child, fancy dress, tiara, beauty queen sash, vacant stare
Unscrupulous Science Teacher Accessories: corduroy blazer, glasses, dress shirt, tie, leering stare



My friends love a good zombie story and have often theorized about what it would take to survive an apocalyptic zombie outbreak scenario. Caleb dressed as a survialist prepared for a post-zombie world and equipped with a toolbelt, work gloves, and 2 liter of Mountain Dew. My husband enjoyed zombification via white costume make up and fake blood. He wore old clothes that he could rip and spill blood onto for effect.

Zombie Survivalist Accessories: tool belt with leatherman, bowie knife, first aid kit and firestarter, back pack, work gloves, hat, and ability to shotgun a can of Mountain Dew
Zombie Accessories: make up, fake blood, old ripped clothes, unrelenting appetite for brains



Poor Melynda. She was really distraught the year Michael Jackson died. As a fan of his music she dressed as MJ in homage to his life for Halloween. Her boyfriend, Justin, dressed as a low-key zombie and they both did the Thriller dance together. A moving tribute.

Michael Jackson Accessories: one sparkly glove, hat, shoulder-padded jacket and MJ makeup–don’t forget the pasty skin!

Low-Key Zombie Accessories: ashen face, circles under eyes, halting walk



All the romance of a dime store novel! None of the sheepish embarrassment of purchasing it! Stef and Dave win the Most Epic award for costumes with this one. Stef purchased this Arwen dress online but similar dresses could be found by the conscientious thrifter.  Dave’s craftily-inclined mother made him the knight’s tunic. I’m not sure about the cape. Anthony had a very similar cape made by a seamstress friend of ours, but Cindy could have made this, too. I’m not sure if Dave borrowed Anthony’s or not. Either way? Epic.

LOTR Knight Accessories: tunic, cape, official LOTR merch leaf-pin, large hairy feet

LOTR Elf Accessories: princess dress, regal bearing, soft focus lens



Here’s a post about my daughter’s first Halloween costume: a piece of sushi. To complete the couple’s theme, I was a Japanese housewife. My awesome friend Valerie sewed up the salmon pillow and green nori belt for Isobel and we put her in a plain white onesie. I just happened to have a beautiful kimono and obi belt given to my by our friend Aiden who was stationed in Okinawa for a few years while serving with the military.

Japanese Housewife Accessories: kimono, obi belt, parasol, graceful manner (which I probably lacked)

Adorable Piece of Sushi Accessories: White onesie and leggings, nori belt, salmon pillow, excessive cuteness

DIY Baby Costume Inspiration

4 Oct

It’s that wonderful time of year when my thoughts start turning to what the heck am I going to be this year? Except this year I really don’t care what I’m going to be. I’m focused on Isobel.

This is the last year we are going to choose her costume. She’s still too little to have an opinion but next year she’s most definitely going to have an opinion and I can’t wait to find out what that is, but for now, Halloween is basically an excuse for Mama and Dada to dress up baby.

Isobel’s costume last year rocked: it was cheap, simple, and completely adorable. It also matched with a costume I already had for myself:

She was a piece of nigirizushi sushi and I was a Japanese housewife.

My friend Aidan spent some time living in the military base in Okinawa and he came home with all sorts of presents for us. He brought me this beautiful kimono and obi belt, along with several hilarious Engrish shirts.

I saw the idea for the sushi baby in an issue of Parents magazine and my crafty friend Valerie whipped up the “salmon” pillow and green “nori” belt in about ten minutes on her sewing machine. Thanks again, Val! This awesomeness was made possible thanks to you.

While looking for online inspiration I came across this contest at a website I love called Ohdeedoh. It’s a great website and my nursery was even featured there once. I could totally enter it in the Ohdeedoh contest since it meets their qualifications perfectly, but in reading the fine print I sign over the rights to my precious baby photos for them to use forever and ever. So, um, no. Thanks, but I don’t need to win a contest to validate that 1. my baby is adorable, and 2. that her Halloween costume rocks.

If you’re looking for an adorable, cheap, simple Halloween costume for your baby, might I suggest this one?

(Cute baby not included.)

The Friends of Isobel Book

1 Jun

While Isobel was still quite young we decided to create a Friends of Isobel book. Something that had photos of all of our friends so we could show her the names and faces and she could be familiar with everybody, including our good friends who live really far away. This worked out so well I immediately started work on a Family of Isobel book. That’s taking a little longer, though, because I want to be sure to involve family we rarely see who live far away. It’s been a struggle to track down all their photos but I’m almost done.

Isobel has really loved her Friends of Isobel book. From a young age she’s been absolutely fascinated by photographs and  much prefers photographs to any cartoon image. We point to the faces in the book and say their names and she watches attentively.

We used an online photo service to create this book (I think it was Shutterfly) but a lot of  companies do this so shop around. We went with softback because it was cheaper and money’s tight, but I sometimes think we should have gone with hardback because a toddler dishes out some heavy wear and tear. All of the pages are wrinkled on yesterday she even managed to rip one page out. The cover is bent and worn with love.

This kind of loving abuse would have happened to a hardcover book as well. Really the only way to have prevented it would have been the careful monitoring of her every time she was around it. That really went against the spirit of what we were trying to accomplish but I certainly understand any parent’s decision to do so. We’ve had so many wonderful moments of catching her with the book when she didn’t know we were looking, flipping through it, pointing to our friends’ faces, and talking to them. I’ve seen her sit in front of the book and say, over and over in her pitch-perfect baby voice, “Hi. Hi. Hi.”

Sometimes she just babbles softly to the pages of the book and sometimes she’ll talk to them excitedly. For us it has been worth the abuse this book has suffered to see her make her own memories with the photos of her and our friends.

The small softcover book that we purchased was about twenty bucks I think but this could easily be done for less. In fact, a book is not necessary at all. You could easily just get a small photo album and fill it with photos of people, animals, or places to familiarize your baby with. We added  a small amount of text next to each photo that includes our friend’s name and a sentence about them. This way we could read the book to her at bedtime. A photo album with pictures could work just as well as you could tell whatever stories pop into your mind. And it would be cheap enough and easy enough to change the photos around if you got bored. The possibilities are endless and really the point is to share photos of people you love with your kid in a way that entertains and educates them.

Currently this book is pretty ratty and worn-looking but it reminds me of the story of the Velveteen Rabbit: this is what one looks like when one is loved.

Closet Dividers Tutorial

30 May

I received a lot of interest in my flickr series about the closet dividers I made for my daughter’s nursery so I thought I would post a little tutorial for those of you crazy enough (or pregnant enough) to attempt it. It has been suggested that I not post a tutorial for this and that instead I create these dividers to sell on Etsy. As fun as they were they were a whole lot of work and I’d feel compelled to charge hundreds of thousands of dollars in compensation so I think we’re all better off with a tutorial.

For those of you who remember, I received more baby clothes for Isobel before she was born than my husband and I own put together. I’m talking massive amounts of ittty bitty pink onesies, dresses, overalls, footie pajamas, socks; you name it, I had four of them. Including infant bathrobes. Which, shockingly, I never used. I folded them all neatly and stacked them next to my supply of infant smoking jackets.

My trepidation grew with my belly. How on earth was I going to keep track of all these clothes? All these sizes? All these hangers? (Note to new moms: you will never have enough baby hangers. Stock up when you can.) I decided to put my nesting urge to work with my obsessive tenancy to organize and came up with the perfect solution: homemade closet dividers.

These are a lot of work, a whole lot of work, and when I first began the endeavor I didn’t realize it would be as time consuming as it was. However, if you are pregnant and in the midst of nesting like I was, you will go to ridiculous lengths to complete this project.

I’m sure there’s more than one way to do this but I’m going to post the way that I went about it. If any of you figure out an easier way to do this, please speak up in the comments. I’m sure there are crafters out there who would be eternally grateful.


Paper – The most obvious thing you’ll need for this project is paper, gorgeous paper that you love, and the thicker the better. I went to the store in my town and found a notepad of large square crafting paper. It was gorgeous and I think I used all but one sheet. It was expensive, though. I’m not used to spending twenty bucks on paper. You’ll also need printer paper or some other paper to use as labels. Of course, you could also use printer-friendly labels found at an office supply store. Your choice.

Cutting tools – By this I mean scissors but I also mean any other nifty tools that would help you cut out the circles from the middle of the hangers and any other tool to fancy up the paper. I used a hole-punch designed for making rounded edges on photographs for rounding the edges on my labels. I won it as a door prize for attending a scrap booking party one time, but I’m sure you could find them at the craft store.

Adhesive – I used rubber cement for this but I’m sure Mod Podge would work if you want to decoupage them. I’m sure other sticky substances would work, too. Just remember that Elmer’s glue can make paper wrinkle. Experiment and find out what works for you.

Door Hanger Template – I made this one in Photoshop and posted it on flickr. Enjoy, and feel free to make any adjustments you see fit!

Laminator – You don’t have to laminate these, but it really helps them last. As I mentioned, you can always decoupage them. Lamination services are available at some office supply stores or at copy centers like Kinko’s.


The first thing I did was figure out my closet organization layout to determine what labels I wanted to use. If I can figure out a way to post my labels so you don’t have to go through the headache of making them, I will. Because that was a lot of work and I sort of want to be your personal label-making savior. You do need to figure out how many labels you need to figure out how many dividers you’ll make. And then you’ll need two copies of each label because the dividers are double-sided.

Print out the closet divider template on some very thick cardstock-ish paper. After it’s all printed and cut out and ready to go lay it on the wrong side of one of your fancy papers and trace with a pencil (oops, forgot to add that under materials – pencil!). I was able to fit three dividers on each piece of fancy paper.

You are going to trace the template twice for each divider so count out how many you need and double that. Trace them and cut them all out. Once that’s done, you can begin the long process of gluing the dividers wrong-side together. Let them dry for awhile. I matched the dividers up so that they had the same paper on either side but now I’m not sure why I bothered. It would be just as cute, if not cuter, to have mismatched sides. No matter, cut ‘em out, glue ‘em together, let ‘em dry.

Attach a label to each side of the divider. You can get as fancy or simple with this as you want. If I can figure out how to post the word doc labels I made I certainly will, but don’t limit yourself. If you have great penmanship you can write directly on the dividers themselves, or create your own lovely labels in Photoshop or Word. Avery makes those labels you just run right through the printer and that always works, too. Like I said I just printed mine out from word, cut them to side, and then fancied up the edges by using a photo-corner-roundening punch.

After the labels are created and glued on and all dried you can decide whether or not you want to laminate them. If you do decide to go that route, leaving an edge of lamination around the dividers is a good idea. I did not and some of them started to come apart a bit. The big pain about laminating is that after all that cutting you then have to go back and cut them all up *yet again* before they are done. Honestly, however, if you’ve gone to all the work of making these you’re probably going to want them to last, so in my opinion it’s worth it. Plus, if you’re reading this there’s a good chance you’re a crazy pregnant lady hell-bent on nesting and nothing will prevent you from completing this task. That’s how it was for me.


If you’ve followed these steps you now have your own gorgeous closet dividers perfect for you organizing the tons of baby clothes you’re obsessively organizing and then re-organizing at three in the morning. I’d love to hear from anyone out that who had the stamina to try this.


  1. Figure out what sections you want in your closet
  2. Print out the labels on printer paper, nice paper, or on self-adhesive, printer-friendly labels.
  3. Print out the door hanger template on thick paper and cut out.
  4. Trace template on wrong side of fancy paper
  5. Glue two fancy papers wrong-side together for each divider.
  6. Stick or glue label on each side of divider.
  7. Laminate divider
  8. Cut out divider

Questions? Experiences? I’d love to hear all about it in the comments.